, Volume 131, Issue 1, pp 267-275
Date: 30 Aug 2011

Tissue composition of mammographically dense and non-dense breast tissue

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Abstract

Mammographic density is a strong risk factor for breast cancer but its underlying biology in healthy women is not well-defined. Using a novel collection of core biopsies from mammographically dense versus non-dense regions of the breasts of healthy women, we examined histologic and molecular differences between these two tissue types. Eligible participants were 40 + years, had a screening mammogram and no prior breast cancer or current endocrine therapy. Mammograms were used to identify dense and non-dense regions and ultrasound-guided core biopsies were performed to obtain tissue from these regions. Quantitative assessment of epithelium, stroma, and fat was performed on dense and non-dense cores. Molecular markers including Ki-67, estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) were also assessed for participants who had >0% epithelial area in both dense and non-dense tissue. Signed rank test was used to assess within woman differences in epithelium, stroma and fat between dense and non-dense tissue. Differences in molecular markers (Ki-67, ER, and PR) were analyzed using generalized linear models, adjusting for total epithelial area. Fifty-nine women, mean age 51 years (range: 40–82), were eligible for analyses. Dense tissue was comprised of greater mean areas of epithelium and stroma (1.1 and 9.2 mm2 more, respectively) but less fat (6.0 mm2 less) than non-dense tissue. There were no statistically significant differences in relative expression of Ki-67 (P = 0.82), ER (P = 0.09), or PR (P = 0.96) between dense and non-dense tissue. Consistent with prior reports, we found that mammographically dense areas of the breast differ histologically from non-dense areas, reflected in greater proportions of epithelium and stroma and lesser proportions of fat in the dense compared to non-dense breast tissue. Studies of both epithelial and stromal components are important in understanding the association between mammographic density and breast cancer risk.